Richard Vernalls – PA Images via Getty Images You may have seen the recent protests around LGBT+ inclusive lessons at a number of Birmingham schools – protests which now appear to have spread to London, as revealed in a series of tweets this week.
Messages about Yusuf Patel’s ‘Parental Guidance’ speaking tour in London warn of a “highly sexualised society” where “homosexual relationships are normalised” and children want to “change their gender” – language harking back to the repressive times under Section 28 when schools were banned from teaching about LGBT+ relationships.
I’m sure you were as shocked as I was when reading this bigotry masquerading as concern for pupils. The video doing the rounds on Twitter last week sent shockwaves through the internet and through my bones.
And yet in our London bubble, it’s sometimes easy to forget that people with these horrendous views still exist and have a platform. Just this week I went back to my secondary school that embraced me with open arms to talk about the volunteer work we do at Pride in London.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising – the start of the modern Pride movement – and yet no matter how far we’ve come in the past 50 years, we clearly still have a long way to go. Not least within faith groups where deep conservatism is entrenched.
We must condemn these attitudes wholeheartedly, but we must do so with compassion. Despite the media narrative, ‘Islam’ means peace in Arabic, however the attempts to deprive pupils of an education that promotes acceptance and equality for all is not acceptable. This isn’t about making anyone gay, it’s about creating a society that is fair and is equal.
That’s why Pride in London is calling on local MPs, community leaders, teachers, parents and the pupils themselves to stand in solidarity with us and do everything within their power to prevent hate-filled speech and protests towards the LGBT+ community from spreading wider.
How can you help?
As a pupil, make sure your school knows how important covering diversity and inclusivity in lessons is to you. As a parent, speak to your kids about the issues they’re covering in their PSHE/citizenship/sex education lessons and make sure nothing is being censored. As a teacher, make sure your school is 100% committed to offering a curriculum that fully reflects the broad spectrum of relationships, communities and individuals in our society.
Every year we march through the streets of London heads held high and our voices strong. The capital city and the authorities accept us for who we are. I look forward to the day when that acceptance and respect spans the whole of the country at all times, rather than the streets of London for a single day each year. And that day will only come by ensuring the next generation is taught to celebrate – not just accept – the diversity of the LGBT+ community.
Our fight for progress must also recognise the challenges faced by those whose identity spans their faith and sexuality simultaneously. I navigate this place in the world’s smallest Venn diagram everyday and know I am not alone in navigating what feels like two competing identities.
In the 5th Surah of the Qu’ran you will find the following line: If Allah willed, He would have made you one nation, but that (s)he may test you in what (s)he has given you; so strive as in a race in good deeds. The return of you (all) is to Allah; then (s)he will inform you about that in which you used to differ We have an obligation to ensure everyone in our schools is taught about what it means to be LGBT+. About celebrating diversity in all its forms. About showing one another basic respect.
Because it’s 2019.
And this is Great Britain.